Kabbadi literally means “holding of breath” in Hindi (an Indian language), and that is basically what the game is all about. The game is played between two teams, each possessing seven players on the court with five players as reserves. The court is twelve and a half metres by ten metres, which is roughly the same size as half a basketball court. Each game is made up of two twenty minute halves, while there is a five minute half time break. As with soccer and basketball, teams switch sides at half time.
So, how exactly is the game itself played? For kabbadi, the object is to tag a member of the opposing team, thus gaining your team points. On each team’s turn for kabbadi, a raider (or catcher) is sent across the half way line to the other team’s side of the court, and his/her object is to try and tag someone without getting caught. What makes the game interesting, is that the raider himself is not allowed to breathe while in the opponent’s side of the court, meaning that he must measure how long he can stay in the other half without running out of breath. The raider is supposed to prove that he is not taking breaths by chanting throughout his time in the other half, usually the chant is kabbadi in India/Pakistan (although different chants exist for each country).
For kabbadi, the team who is trying to defend against the raider is basically trying to make him/her run out of breath before they can go back to their side of the court. The defending team have to form a chain to “catch’ the raider, should this chain be broken then a member of the defending team is sent off the court. To stop the raider, defenders can either wrestle him to the ground and hold him there until he runs out of breath, or they can push the raider out of the court- should they do either of those things, the raider is out and sent off the court.
For kabbadi, each time a player is sent off (whether from the attacking or defending team) a point is given. A bonus of two points are given (called an Iona) if the all the members of the opposition team are declared out. Kabbadi does not have a lot of recognition outside of Asia as it is not competed in the Olympics, however it is competed during the Asian Games, where India picked up the gold in 2006. In the past, India have been the giants in the Asian Games, picking up the gold medal for kabbadi in 1994, 1998 and 2002 as well as their most recent success. Kabbadi continues to grow in popularity as Asia increases its population, and it seems likely that it will be included on the world stage in the next few years.